Fire Will Come Full Movie Review – An outline of trees forms a zig-zag pattern across the night sky, somewhere deep in Galicia. One of their number is felled, then another and another. An angry, wolfish path is being carved into the forest. Is this Godzilla on the rampage? The culprit eventually comes into view: it’s a bulldozer, though it’s impossible to see who’s driving so it could still be mistaken for some fantastical beast. This forest has always been invaded by those who don’t belong – the eucalyptus trees, for example, whose roots strangle out all the other plants.
And then there’s Amador (Amador Arias), who’s found his way back to his elderly mother Benedicta (Benedicta Sánchez) and her farm, inhabited by three cows and a sprightly hound. Amador has just been released from prison, where he’s spent the last two years on an arson charge. We’re told he started a wildfire that tore up a local hillside, but nothing else.
The villagers are largely ambivalent about his return – there are no pitchforks at dawn here. Some poke fun of him (“Got a light?”) while others show sympathy (“He’s a good guy, it just hasn’t been easy for him”). In most cases, the crime simply goes unmentioned. But Amador makes little effort to propitiate his neighbours. He can barely look them in the eye. When a local vet (Elena Fernández) tries to lighten the mood during a pin-drop quiet car ride, she puts on Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”. There’s no reaction: he doesn’t understand the words, but can’t even appreciate the melody. Maybe he gets it from his mother, with her hard, stony gaze. When Amador first turns up at the farm, all she can bring herself to say is: “Are you hungry?” At night, she burrows under the covers like a mole.
Or are Amador’s pyromaniac inclinations connected to the mass deforestation taking place near his farm, which he watches with an impassive eye? Director Oliver Laxe, who co-wrote the script with Santiago Fillol, seems unwilling to provide the answers or even allow us a glimpse at his protagonist’s psychological drive. And so, Fire Will Come ends up deprived of internal tension, because it assumes there’s no hope for this man and that he’ll eventually succumb once more – hence the gloomy and definitive title.
This is Laxe’s third feature. It cements many of his tricks and traits: namely, the use of non-professional actors and an almost pseudo-documentarian, unstructured approach. They work both to Fire Will Come’s advantage and its disadvantage. The film is striking and sparse, but it also relies on the expectation that every shift in tone can be read from the weathered features of its lead actor. There’s a single revelatory line. “If they hurt others, it’s because they hurt too,” Benedicta says of the predatorial eucalyptus trees.
Laxe has also chosen to etch his story on the hills and valleys of Galicia, where he spent a chunk of his childhood. Cinematographer Mauro Herce imbues the region with the rugged beauty of traditional pastoral paintings. There’s a stillness here, interrupted only by the patter of rain or the ringing of cowbells. Soon, it will be overtaken by the roar of flames – Fire Will Come ends with the haunting image of a half-starved horse wandering across a charred landscape. But its presence feels like a mystery.
Fire Will Come will be available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema from 20 March